It’s no secret that a fan’s support can uplift, motivate and inspire individuals as well as a team as a whole. Every team in sports have tonnes of stories about their fans rallying behind them. The influence of the supporters on the team’s performance might not be quantifiable but definitely identifiable.
Even the players acknowledge the support of the people who go up to insurmountable lengths and breaths for the team they support. Passionate groups of fans of a team are even referred to as the 12th man of the team.
Well, if their passion sees no bounds in terms of supporting their favoured player or team, the ire of the fans is also limitless. If the support of the fans make for great stories, the fringe elements masquerading as fans do not hold themselves back while expressing their discontent.
Sunday’s unfortunate incident at the Pallekele International Stadium wasn’t the first time where the spectators expressed their vexation over their team’s performance.
Home side, Sri Lanka, were eight runs away from losing their sixth consecutive rubber against India (three Tests and three ODIs) when sections of the crowd started throwing bottles on to the field of play. The officials had to halt play for over half an hour before the match restarted obviously after the unruly crowd were asked to leave the arena. While the unrest broke around the ground, the veteran Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who has seen it all was happy to sneak in a power nap on the ground itself.
Here is a look at some other occasions when unruly crowds lost their composure:
India vs Sri Lanka, 1996 World Cup semi-final, Eden Gardens, Kolkata
Chasing Sri Lanka’s total of 251 the Indian side imploded once Sachin Tendulkar fell. The home side slumped from 98/2 to 120/8, though a recognised batsman, Vinod Kambli, was still in the middle. The inexplicable collapse didn’t go down well with the crowd at the Eden Garden as they hurled bottles and paper missiles on the field. The large enraged mob was difficult to control forcing the game to be abandoned. Match referee Clive Lloyd awarded the match in Sri Lanka’s favour knocking India out of the World Cup.
West Indies vs Australia, 1999, Kensington Oval, Barbados
Irate West Indies fans unleashed glass bottles on the ground, after Sherwin Campbell was ruled out under controversial circumstances. The Windies were chasing Australia’s 253 when in the 29th over of the second innings, Campbell and Australian bowler Brendon Julian found themselves in a mid-pitch collision. Fielder Michael Bevan effected the run out with Campbell clearly in a state of shock, thinking that the bowler had intentionally blocked his way.
Chaos ensued as crowds started throwing whatever they laid their hands on, from beer bottles to food items, on the field. Australian skipper Steve Waugh saw the danger and left the field. The match resumed only after the Aussies decided to call back Campbell and it took Sir Garfield Sobers to calm the crowd down by letting them know that Campbell would be called in again. Police rode on horses to get the situation under control and the ground staff had to pick up each broken glass piece and clean the ground making it fit to play again.
England vs Pakistan, 2001, Leeds, Headingley
There was a bizarre case of pitch invasion in which a fan leapt over the boundary hoardings and ran into a steward. A large section of the crowd followed him, which led to chaos and stampede. It resulted in a steward getting injured and having to be stretched off the ground. It was later known that he had damaged two ribs. The players ran for cover as well, forcing the then English captain, Alec Stewart, to concede the game with Pakistan just four runs away from victory.
India vs South Africa, 2015, Cuttack
South Africa bowled India out for a paltry 92, and the Cuttack crowd went wild as they flung a barrage of bottles on the ground. Even during South Africa’s chase the crowd kept on throwing bottles on the ground, disrupting proceedings. The spectators littered the space between the fence at the edge of the playing area and the advertising boards on the boundary with bottles. The match had to be stopped and police officials had their task cut out. Eventually the players had to be ushered out and the police took charge of the situation. The game was halted for 15 minutes before the Proteas came back to chase the rest of the target down. The match was a one-sided affair but grabbed the headlines due to the crowd violence.
Sri Lanka vs Pakistan, 2015, Premadasa stadium, Colombo
Play was suspended for half an hour in the third ODI between Sri Lanka and Pakistan when the home side was reeling at 158 for 7 in their chase of Pakistan's mammoth 317. The Pakistani cricketers gathered near the pitch and sat on the ground, waiting for interruption to end as fight broke between two factions in the crowd. Stones were pelted on the field of play and the match was stopped as part of caution. Police controlled the violence and the misbehaving sections of the crowd were evacuated and play was resumed after the interruption.